The Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer of Accident Investigation Review, Akin Olateru, in this interview believes that to effectively carry out accident investigation when a crash or major incident happens, the agency must meet certain parameters in tandem with international standards. Chinedu Eze brings the excerpts:
The Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) just carried out peer review of its activities, what prompted this move?
The essence of the peer review we carried out with our consultants from Europe was to look at our equipment, infrastructure, technical personnel, system, processes and procedures, regulations and the entire organisation and benchmarked it with the European standards. That was why we have the two gentlemen, Mr. Caj Frostell, the former Commissioner of Banjul Accord Group Accident Investigation Agency (BAGAIA) and Mr. Ismo Aaltonen, Chief Air Safety Investigator, Safety Investigation Authority, Finland here who were with us for the last one week. They checked our books and see how we do things, what we have on ground and they guided us on how to make it better and world class.
If you look at accident investigation in West and Central Africa, Nigeria is a leader and to lead, you must have 20:2020 vision, strong view, right mindset and the energy to lead and in order to achieving that, it must be all encompassing. So, this is one off programme in ensuring we are the leader in Africa when it comes to accident investigation on the continent.
Regularly, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) comes in here to do an audit, but this we just have is not an audit, but a peer review to see where we are and see how we can make things better in accordance with European standards.
Having gone through this, in what area do you think the bureau still requires more investments to be at par with its counterparts in Europe?
First of all, in the past, accident investigation’s reports had been delayed in this country. We had accidents that were investigated for several years. It should not be. If you look very well, since I came in last year, we try to keep to that one-year rule. It is rare in a normal setting for accident investigation to take more than a year. So, that speed through effective planning is part of the highlights we flipped back from this visit.
Investments come in different forms and to make any company work effectively, you need to make investment in infrastructure, equipment, human capital, which comes through hiring the right people, training and retraining these calibre of people you have employed and then, you need to constantly look at reviewing your procedures and processes to match the latest things going on in the world and this is same reason AIB has called for the review of our regulations, which has been circulated to all the stakeholders. Before the end of the year, we will be calling for a stakeholders’ meeting to have an interactive session to review regulation together and that comes into effect. Investment is an ongoing process, there is no limit. As long as an organisation is ongoing, as long as you want to keep on turning out first class products, you must constantly review in terms of investments.
How soon do we expect the effect of this peer review exercise to begin to reflect in AIB’s activities?
I think the answer to that is to say that it started since last Thursday. We worked through the public holidays for the exercise to be done. The last two days (Wednesday and Thursday) have been on training on how to make it bet ter. The implementation will start from next week (this week) after they have gone. There are few things we will start roll out for the world to see and that is part of the outcome of this exercise. At the end of the day, we are all working towards the same goal, which is to make a difference.
Why is AIB reviewing its regulations again barely few years after doing so?
AIB came to bear in 2007, via the Civil Aviation Act 2006; our regulation was designed to guide how you do things. That regulation is outdated, it has to be reviewed. Regulation basically is to guide the stakeholders and to let everybody know this is how reporting system is done. If you look at annex 18, it has just been reviewed by ICAO. We need to bring our regulations to speed to capture those new areas because you have to constantly review how you do things for you to stay relevant, if not, you will become outdated. It is easier to review regulations than to review the Act. Act is forever.
More so, the need to review our regulations was part of ICAO findings the last time it audited us. ICAO observed that there were lots of gaps in the current regulations, which had called for this review. As a responsible organisation, you have to constantly put your regulations, processes, systems and Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to test to make sure there is still life and they are still going to work in accordance to your objectives. And, if you find any gaps, you need to review and make it alive.
Our core mandate is to investigate accident, recommend safety to prevent future occurrence; above all, it is just all about how to make aviation a safer business and to make sure we give the flying public a sense of safety element. So, what we are doing today is to promote aviation safety generally and ensuring that we get it right the first time and all the time.
Just recently, a committee to look into the implementation of safety recommendations released by the bureau was set up with a time limit given to the committee, what was the outcome of this committee?
The whole essence of that exercise was to measure the level of compliance and effectiveness of those safety recommendations. We have issued 147 safety recommendations since the birth of AIB in 2007 to June 2018 and out of that 70 per cent have been fully implemented, 15 per cent has been partially implemented; the rest, we have set up a committee between AIB and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to work out the modalities on how they would be implemented. That is the fallout of that committee. It was a very productive one and the minister was very impressed because it gave out overview of how AIB has contributed to the safety of air transport in Nigeria.
For your information, a copy of that report was circulated at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting,, which goes a long way to show how Sen. Hadi Sirika, Minister of State for Aviation takes aviation business. The reason for that is not for us to show off, but for us to let the world know about our performance.
The problem we are having with some of these safety recommendations are with the government agencies outside aviation industry. For instance, to get the Nigeria Police Force to conform, you need to get the Inspector General of Police to comply. For us to progress, we needed to sign Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) with the Nigeria Air Force, the Nigeria Navy, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and several other government agencies, but the responses have been very slow. We need to let them know the importance of signing an MoU. We are all being funded by the Federal Government in the interest of the Nigerian public for the benefit of Nigeria and Nigerians as a whole.